MILLVILLE — When Robert Zapar's family members remember him, they'll remember a devoted family man, friend and big brother.

And they hope his death will be a warning about the dangers of mental health for other people.

Zapar, 35, killed himself last Thursday in the parking lot of the same veterinarian where, four months earlier, his beloved dog Peyton had died, according to a story from the Daily Journal. Detective Lt. Ross Hoffman told New Jersey 101.5 that Zapar had shot himself in the parking lot at the Animal Clinic of Millville.

Hoffman said Zapar had brought a letter to the veterinarian's office talking about what had happened to his dog, and his grief over the dog's passing.

Zapar's sister, Amanda Gillespie, told New Jersey 101.5 Peyton was like a son to Robert — and the two had been through a lot together.

Gillespie said her brother had been involved in a severe motorcycle accident in 2009. As he went through a lengthy recovery to learn to walk and talk again, Peyton was the "one constant thing through all this," she said.

Peyton, a 10-year-old Rottweiler, had been dealing with medical issues before his death. Gillespie said the dog died in Peyton's car on its way to be put down.

"He tried for a good four months," Gillespie said of her brother after the dog's death. "He couldn't let go of Peyton."

The loss of Zapar is hard for his family and friends, Gillespie said, made harder still by the fact that he never let on just how much he was suffering after Peyton's death.

"Losing Robbie has taken a toll on all our family," she said. "No one came to grips with how hurt Robbie was deep down inside. He hid it very well."

She said her big brother "seemed to be happier than we've seen him in a while."

When she remembers Zapar, Gillespie said, she'll remember how he was always there for her and everyone else. She'll remember him offering to pick her up from work in the snow, and how he would take his little sister wherever he went. And she'll remember sitting at a Phillies' game in the pouring rain, wearing garbage bags cheering, on their favorite team.

All those memories don't change the fact that she's lost her brother.

"This is the reality that depression is real and to know that people hide it well," she said.

If you feel you or someone you know may be in crisis, call the National Suicide Prevention Hotline, 1-800-273-TALK, or the NJ Hopeline, 1-855-654-6735.

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